After an enjoyable pie primer and feast a few days earlier, I couldn't resist returning to the New School of Cooking in Culver City this weekend for a hands-on pickling extravaganza. With expert instruction from Kristyne Starling and Mr. Pickles (aka David Jarrett, proud partner in a new vegan restaurant on Pico, Maddy's Sweet & Savory, 14 excited students of all ages and backgrounds moved smartly around multiple work stations, chopping jalapeños, blanching green beans, pricking baby tomatoes, slicing red grapes, shucking corn, and piling pre-cut cucumbers and beets into the canning jars. We learned the difference between quick pickling (also called refrigerator or vinegar pickling), which doesn't require immersing the jars in water to sterilize and seal them, and water-bath canning, which does.
Each recipe called for a different brine composed primarily of vinegar (diverse types), water, salt, sugar, plus a variety of spices and flavoring. The range of pickles you can make is as large as the harvest and as broad as your imagination, it seems. A teaspoon and a half of coffee beans were the secret ingredient in the Pickled Coffee Beets. Pickled Chai Grapes called for chai tea bags. Bourbon Pickled Jalapeños required, well, booze! Only one of the seven jars of pickled produce we took home with us--Chow Chow, a mix of corn, onion and red bell peppers--was canned using the water-bath method, and it could have been done without. Most of the quick pickles can be stored for about a month, while the water-bath-canned ones keep for much longer.
It's not as hard as it sounds, said Mr. Pickles, and as for everybody's number one worry, botulism, not a concern with quick pickles, as they're under refrigeration. Having the proper acidity of pH level is particularly important with water-bath canning, he said, which is a good reason to follow the recipe, at least when it comes to the type and quantity of vinegar you use.
Probably the biggest misconception about pickling is that you have to water-bath can, Chef Starling observed as the class came to a close (with an Irish whiskey and pickle-juice chaser!). "Pickling is fun and easy to do," she said. "Feel free to play around."
As for me, my next adventure will undoubtedly be trying to figure out recipes for foods that use up or go well with seven cans of pickles! Any ideas?
Two Pickle Recipes
Following are recipes for refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles and Pickled Chai Grapes, which were among my favorites of those we sampled. The recipes we received don't specify quantities or container types. In the class, we filled to the line just below where the lids screw down on the Ball canning jars. Glass or hard-plastic containers with lids would work at home for refrigerator pickles.
Bread and Butter Pickles
5 pounds pickling cucumbers in quarter-inch slices
1 pound onions, thinly sliced (preferably a sweet onion, like Vidalia or Walla Walla)
1/2 cup kosher salt
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Toss the cucumbers and onions with the 1/2 cup kosher salt. Cover with ice and let sit for 2 hours. Rinse and drain. Set aside.
Combine the ingredients for the brine and bring to a boil. Pour over the cucumbers and onions. Ladle into jars or store in other sturdy covered containers in the refrigerator. The pickles will keep for up to one month.
Pickled Chai Grapes*
3 pounds red seedless grapes, sliced in half
Cinnamon sticks (we used one per jar)
3 chai tea bags (we used one per jar)
2 cups champagne vinegar
|Pickled grapes, tomatoes and cukes|
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Put halved grapes into a container with a cinnamon stick, packing with a enough space for liquid to surround the fruit.
Combine the brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over the grapes and add the tea bags in jars or other covered containers. Let sit in the refrigerator for 2 days, then remove the tea bags. Grapes will be ready in 4 days and will hold for three weeks in the refrigerator, but don't forget to remove the tea bags!
*Mr. Pickles said the recipe would also work well with another fruit, such as cherries, perhaps using a different spice and tea flavor.
Speaking of pickles: To hear audio of what Mr. Pickles and Kristyne had to say about pickling and a future class on another kind of pickling, lacto-fermentation, click the links below.